Ashley Wilkinson

That’s been my life for the past few months.

Look, I’m a naturally stressed-out person. At any given time, I’m likely stressing about five different things at once. Even as I’m typing this, I’m mildly stressed, but I can’t exactly pinpoint which one of the many stressful circumstances in my life is causing it. I’ve just always been this way. 

Maybe it comes from my dad. Despite being a fairly reasonable man, he can’t even make a sandwich without worrying that somehow, someway, it’ll cause the end of the world (and my mom is probably reading this with a snicker because she knows it’s true).

Maybe it gets fueled unintentionally by poor Matt, my boyfriend of almost two years. As much as I love this man, he’s an empath to a fault. He picks up on the emotions of the individuals around him. Ergo, he tends to feel what I feel. So when I’m stressed out, he’s stressed out. And because he’s stressed, it stresses me out even more. It’s a never-ending cycle.

The bottom line is, I can’t “just relax.” I never have, and I have my doubts that I ever will be able to. 

Earlier this month, I began to feel a little under the weather. It wasn’t anything COVID-related; my body just felt... off. So, naturally, I scheduled a doctor’s appointment for this week. And, naturally, the anxiety built up. What if it’s something serious? What if it’s a contagious disease? What if my health insurance doesn’t pay for it?

By the time my appointment came, I was literally trembling. I even had to explain to the receptionist that I don’t hate doctors; it’s just that the air conditioning must be too high.

A few minutes later, I was in an exam room. The nurse’s assistant took my vitals, left the room, and the doctor came in. She took a moment to ask about symptoms and review my vitals before giving me her diagnosis: stress.

It’s crazy to me that something we all experience, something naturally engraved in us for the sole purpose of keeping us safe, can affect our bodies in strange ways that I never thought were possible. Stress didn’t even cross my mind as a reason I was feeling sick. That was a wake-up call for me.

But then that begs the question: how does a naturally-stressed person destress?

One Google search of “how to relieve stress” later, and I almost feel like I’ve graduated with a doctorate in stress management from the University of the Internet. Every WebMD and Mayo Clinic website slapped me in the face with lavender essential oils, chamomile tea, and yoga. Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using those methods to destress. They’re tried and true. But for those to work on me, I’d have to live out the rest of my days sniffing lavender and chugging freshly-brewed chamomile tea, all while simultaneously doing the downward-facing dog pose 24/7. It’s not practical. So what can I do?

And that’s when my brain turned a mental spotlight toward the ending of a WebMD article: therapy. 

Growing up, mental health was a stigmatized subject. I was told that those who battle with anxiety and depression “simply don’t trust God enough.” A few years ago, Matt (who was just a casual flirtation back then) noticed how badly I was struggling with my anxiety and put me in contact with his stepmom. His stepmom, who also struggles with mental health issues, ultimately took me under her wing and passed on the knowledge that she learned in therapy. She became my “therapist.”

But maybe it’s time to start real therapy.

So, before leaving the doctor’s office, I asked about it, and my doctor happily gave me a referral to their behavioral health unit at another (still local) branch. Hours later, they called me and scheduled my first appointment in a few weeks.

I’m eager to discover how therapy will benefit me going forward. I genuinely believe that it will give me the help that I need. But until that first appointment, I’ll be trying to keep my stress in check and get my overall health back to where it needs to be.

Ashley Wilkinson is the sports reporter for The Henderson News. Her email is ©2021, Henderson Newspapers Inc.

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